People Get Ready

I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for your self.
~ Robin Williams, as John Keating in Dead Poets Society (1989)

Thinking for your self? Along with the noble idea of education there’s the daily business of education. You are in that business, and it really amounts to thinking (at least some of the time) for others, doesn’t it? We have spent the better part of this past week visiting schools and facilities from Jacksonville to Ft. Lauderdale. It has been a road show with several stops along the way. This journey was all part of our exciting WeatherSTEM project.  What did we find?

We were met face-to-face with the energy of getting ready for the new school year in schools and facilities across Florida. The signs are rampant. We have all seen it. The thrill of getting ready for a fresh start seems to be leaking into the tired buildings:


“How was your summer?” The conversations and smiles seem to be wearing all the colors and cleanliness of new beginnings. Waves of new life roll through shiny hallways and welcoming doors. It’s that moment laid out as an opportunity for a better ending. It’s that smell of a clean slate, a tabula rasa:


There’s a train coming

There is the overriding hope that this year will be a bit different; it will be a little better. New seeds make for new plants make for new fruit. There will be new discoveries, new adventures, and new rewards. All the newness makes everything look a shade better. Everyone began years ago the same way the newest members of your profession, the first-year teachers, will begin this year. Look in their eyes beyond the nervous fear. Focus on the hope; focus on the possibility for realizing the spectacular. The air has been full of diamonds this past week. Sadly, the dimming will likely begin in another week without your help. Those sparks do indeed fly off your efforts and light the sky when you reach for the spectacular. You can do it! Now what?


Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.
~ Robin Williams, as Jack Powell in Jack (1996)

Driving Along

The middle of the road is where the white line is – and that’s the worst place to drive.
~ Robert Frost


This week is all about driving with purpose, with a sense of commitment. It’s a lot harder to drive on one side of the road or the other than it is to ride the white line with all that room on both sides. You’ve done it before … late at night with eyes closing and a radio that just doesn’t keep you awake. It’s really not safe, but it sure feels that way. Room for error is the goal. Riding the white line does not make you a better driver; it just makes you lucky, if no one else is around. Real driving is about committing to a lane and hanging in there. What does this have to do with Educator?

About six months ago the developers introduced the concept of snippets. A search on this blog site for snippets will display how often they are mentioned. As much as you have enjoyed them, something was always wrong. As the developers have explained, it is just not operationally feasible to create a series of snippet folders at this time. We have talked with teachers who have created more than 500 snippets for their personal use! We had no answers, but you kept writing …

Hi there! I use my Snippets A LOT but am finding with a 2-segment course there are a lot to scroll through to find the one I want. In a dream world would it be possible for us to make folders inside our Snippet menu?

So as I’m adding snippets, what I think would help me a lot is if snippets could be maybe be assigned to a specific module… or for me even to a specific lesson. Right now they can be assigned just to a specific course… but even more specificity here would make this really jump leaps and bounds in usefulness… at least for me...

There have been other requests just like those above. Over the past few weeks the development team has been wrestling with this issue. It was too easy to stay in the middle of the road, to ride the “not now” rationale! They wanted to commit to getting something done. And they did!

Snippet Tagging

1manage225When you are looking at your workload (ASSESSMENTS), you will notice a button in the bottom left just above the Educator shortcut buttons. Click MANAGE FEEDBACK SNIPPETS to enter into your snippet organization zone.
(Yes! You have your very own organization zone to use as you choose.)

This will bring you to the screen for managing your snippets:


From here you can add, edit, or delete any snippet you like. Be patient please. This might be a bit complicated, but once you get it, you will really appreciate it.
Here are some key highlights to this page:

  • The green boxes in this edited screenshot highlight the NAMES of the snippets.
  • After the word TAGS … whatever tag you created is written.
  • You can EDIT or DELETE any snippet.

Look at the first snippet above:

  • Name = 3912_Test 1 (3912)
  • Tag = Module 1

These naming conventions were just invented by the author. The logic here was this particular snippet is for Course ID 3912, specifically Test #1, and it has been tagged with Module 1.  It could just as easily been named Snippet 17 and tagged 3912. It makes no difference how it is named or tagged AS LONG AS IT WORKS for you! Get it?

In case you might have forgotten the variables that could be used with your snippets, a link to them is provided on this page as well.


Whenever you CREATE or EDIT a snippet, you will be using the ADD FEEDBACK SNIPPET box. Here we go!


The entries are self-explanatory, but some suggestions might prove helpful. Think about how you think. If you are working tightly with a team, this might be a group effort. The point is to develop a pattern that works for you (singular) and you (plural).  Some highlights that might prove useful to you:

  • The AVAILABLE TAGS are just a list of tags you have already used/created.
  • Snippets can have more than one tag.
  • All snippets will show up in all of your course shells UNLESS you use the checkboxes.
  • Do limit snippets that only apply to certain courses with the appropriate checkbox.
  • Remember to click SAVE, or you won’t.

This was only one way to add a snippet to your collection! You can also add one “on the fly,” or while you are inside a comment box on an assignment. Here we go again!


You’ve written comments to a student, and you decide to keep those comments as a snippet. Just highlight what you have written and click that plus (+) sign after the snippet selectors. The ADD FEEDBACK SNIPPET will open for your entries and save. Snippet selectors? What are they?

Now that you have your catalog of snippets named and tagged, what’s next? Whenever a snippet might be appropriate (text/feedback boxes or email), the SNIPPET SELECTOR window will come floating along.


Just follow the order from top to bottom, and you’ll catch on in no time.  This is our first step into snippet organization. You’ll catch on to how it works, so give it a try. After you’ve used it enough, we know you’ll make suggestions to make it even better. We’re counting on that, so let us know.

New Icon

Visit any student grade report, and you will notice a new icon.


The icon just represents an exam/quiz that the student could RESET independently. It does NOT mean that the exam was reset; it just means it COULD be. That’s all it means, and it is there primarily for help desk and support groups. At some point it seems that the number of resets and rollbacks and “shopping” for grades will come under tighter control. This icon represents a first step in that direction.

EX-ing Away?

We have a new support headache, and you can help. The “EX” feature in the gradebook was never meant to steer students through a course. In fact, the “EX” was created primarily to permanently EXCUSE non-honors students from honors assignments (or vice versa). Using it to create student paths has been causing problems for both the students and their parents. Temporarily hiding content/assignments via the “EX” tool really needs to stop. There must be a better solution. Tell us what you think, and let’s get a dialogue rolling.

The middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos.
~ Jim Hightower

Another Roadside Attraction

It is better to learn late than never.
~ Publilius Syrus

publilius-syrusA truth from years ago still remains true centuries later. It’s always a good time to learn. There have been many changes in Educator over the past two years. Those of you who have been around that long know what we mean. Those of you who are new to this community will just have to trust the rest of us. Yes, there are even more changes and enhancements in the pipeline, more on the way to and for you and your students. There are big ones and little ones coming together to make a difference. Your reactions to our team’s efforts have been shared with us here, via email, on our Facebook page, and over the phone. Your comments have truly been an inspiration to the Educator team. You keep us learning! How’s that? Back to ancient wisdom …

Where there is unity there is always victory.
~ Publilius Syrus

Every so often it is a good thing to pause and look back. It’s like sitting down at a roadside diner during a long cross-country trip. It can be fun to look over the magic marker line of the roads already traveled. It just brings a smile to know how far you’ve come, renew the vision of where you’re going, and getting that burst of energy from a timely stop at a roadside attraction.  This is one such stop.


Working remotely on our islands, we sometimes forget the pleasure we bring others. There are few smiling faces to see every day. What we really have are words. Looking over very recent communications yielded some “recorded” words that warrant sharing with our team and with you. Some copy/paste magic brings them to this page. There are no fakes; there are no additions; these are only people talking to people. These brought a renewed smile and another jump-start to our engines. They might break a new dawn of ideas or suggestions on your horizon as well. Keep sharing!

I know I appreciate all of the improvements you guys are making.  I emailed my co-Lead this morning to brag on the email changes.

Don’t get me started on the forcing slide changes!  I about did a cartwheel for those!!!

You guys are some of the most available/responsive developers I have ever encountered.

Our whole team is super excited.. !!! BRAVO! There is no other word that is EXCELLENT!! You guys are fantastic!! THANK YOU,THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Thank you! Love all the new changes- you guys rock!

LOVE the blog! LOVE the changes!

Love you guys.

I cannot express how excited I am about the unlock submission. I felt so bad for the kids as a teacher. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU….You guys are AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I can’t tell you how much easier or rather less complicated my Educator ‘life’ has been since all these changes have come about. KUDOS to the entire team.

Three-minute response time on a Sunday…IMPRESSIVE!

Amazing job with the upgrade…I am loving the new Fast Feedback feature that magically appeared in my course tonight.

Many thanks to you and your amazing crew!

All I can say…. YOU ARE AWESOME!!!

Loving the updates. It’s like Educator is a playground now. Lots to explore and discover.

Thanks so much for the response and to even entertain our suggestions. I’m looking forward to the evolution!

I saw it tonight while grading and flipped! Yes!!!! I love it! Thank you!

MAGIC!!! That’s perfect, Ucompass geniuses!

That list above just scratches the surface. Do us a favor? Keep visiting our Facebook page when a brilliant idea rises on your horizon. We know what to do with them.

The person who receives the most favors is the one who knows how to return them.
~ Publilius Syrus


Find A Kid!

Editorial note: It’s good to hear more than one voice. I’ve been thinking about opening this door to others to write something of significance to share in this community. I shared this idea with someone you probably know. She presented me this morning with what follows. It reminded me of you, of your passion, and our shared mission.
~ Peter

This is the blog Peter won’t write.

If you follow him, it is the one post you should read this month. If you read here faithfully, I imagine you know Peter as the voice behind the Ucompass blog, the voice that speaks for the customer, and the voice that represents the teacher. You likely picture him sitting or standing behind a monitor typing away, often introducing a new function in Educator. Since January, 2013, every Thursday like clockwork, he talks to you from this site and teaches you the secrets of Educator that continue to evolve in order to make your jobs technologically simpler, more efficient and more engaging. He also shows you how Educator plays a role in student success. You probably think of him as the voice of your LMS.

Like all of us, however, Peter is not just one-dimensional, and once again, this past weekend I was reminded of who he really is and what he really does and why he does it …

We had agreed, after talking about it for over a year, to really, really, really clean out our garage that had become a home for wayward spiders and a timeshare destination for wasps and junk that no one could quite throw away. The mess had grown over the years and one corner of the garage had been designated as Peter’s dream corner.

Flagler Rams flying field

Flagler Rams flying field

Eight years ago, when we moved into this house, he had lovingly set up that corner with his remote control model planes and all the accouterment to design, build and fly those models.

For eight years, he had held onto the dream, while the dream collected dust in his little corner of the garage.

Twice in all those years, he visited the airfield, but he just never quite had the time to get back into his hobby.

Fast forward to a few days ago. Finally, he was ready to admit that the dream hobby was from days gone by, and he just would not be rebuilding that corner of his life. He packed the trunk to overflowing, loaded the back seat, stacking planes and parts and tools to the car’s ceiling and shoved the overflow into the passenger seat.

A tiny fraction of the dusty dream.

A tiny fraction of the dusty dream.

“I’m heading to the airfield,” he announced.

“Wow,” I said. ‘That’s lots of money there. How much do you think you’ll make?” I asked, as I knew the guys in the RC club always swapped, bartered and bought supplies when they were flying planes.

“None. Not going to sell this stuff.”

Suddenly, I had visions of him unloading the car and putting everything back in the garage. We were never going to get it cleaned out.

“Ugh! Aargh!” Hoarding was the word that was coming to my mind.

Then, he said, “I’m going to find a kid.” And he got in the car and left … just like that.

When he got to the field, he spotted a young teenager, standing and watching. The kid was watching with that look shy kids have when they want to learn, want to do, want to blend in and just don’t quite know where to begin.

He just wanted to learn, to do, and to blend in.

He just wanted to learn, to do, and to blend in.

Peter introduced himself and soon learned the kid’s name was O’Ryan, and he was with his grandfather with whom he was visiting for the summer. He had always wanted to learn to fly, but the planes, and the parts, and the crates full of tools … all of it was just an unaffordable dream for him and his grandfather.

Peter began to unload the car as he continued talking to the kid. The flyers began circling around. They were offering to buy this or that. One by one, Peter said, “No.”

Finally, he asked O’Ryan if he would take care of the piles of remote-control fun. O’Ryan’s eyes got wide, as he assured Peter he would, but then, disappointment seeped in. “We can’t afford this,” his grandfather said.

“Well, it’s my gift to you both. I sure hope you two have fun together.” With that, Peter got into the car. He had found his kid. Peter turned to the grandfather and said, “Help O’Ryan. Make him read the books, and help him.”

And they would find each other.

And they would find each other.

And that’s what jazzes Peter. That’s what excites him about you. It’s what he likes about Ucompass and why he works this blog space. Through the work you do, through the new developments in Educator both large and small, and through his belief in the work of the FLVS/Educator partnership … every day, in some way, he gets to “find a kid.”

~ Pam Birtolo












Safety and Locks

People like secrets. Creative people really like secrets.
~ Nolan Bushnell

There are times when you just don’t want everyone to see what you think and feel. There are those times when you need to make a note to yourself, and you just don’t know where to keep it. Where do you keep any “notes” you may want to remember about a particular student? Where is that safe place?

Teacher Notes

A teacher wrote:

Is there anyway to add a comment box to the student gradebook view that only teachers and TA’s can see? I know that we can modify their profile to add information, but it would be nice to have a box already there that you can add a quick note about the student maybe right under the forcing resources section? That way teachers, leads and TA’s can communicate things like student interventions and dates, etc. Would that be possible?

Possible? It’s here! Visit any student grade report. Above the performance graphs on the right select MODIFY STUDENT PROFILE. Scroll the page and you will notice a new section labeled TEACHER NOTES:


Anything written in this section is viewable ONLY to the teacher and teaching assistants. Notes kept here will not be shown to the student. This might well serve to help communication between teachers.  Will you use it?

Lockout Icon

Then another teacher wrote:

Could we please have a little icon on the student grade report page to indicate when a student has locked themselves out of a worksheet or a test or exam? Maybe a little red padlock next to the gold star? Thanks for thinking about it.

We did more than think; we took action! You might notice a new icon in your student grade report:


That icon indicates when a student has been locked out of a particular exam. The exam allowed only one entry. The student entered and failed to submit the exam. If you click the icon, and the student is online, you will see a warning like one of these:


When you continue, you will be taken to the place to UNLOCK the exam:


We hope this helps. Please let us know.

Exam Data

Someone else sent an email:

I’m often interested in the average score on an exam or the percent of students that get an item correct. How do I interpret the mean score? 

Select EXAMS under ASSESSMENTS in your navigation. From the exam listings select GRADEBOOK from the ACTIONS drop-down menu:


When visit the bottom, you’ll see new data for every individual exam.


Please note that Educator no longer counts exempted exams as a zero in this particular calculation. The same calculations will now be displayed for essay questions on exams.

Visit our Facebook page. Let us know what’s on your mind. Let us know how things are going. Let us know what you need to better do your job or help your students do theirs. Be creative. You never know where it may lead. Recognizing how often we seem to quote Albert Einstein, let’s do it again …

To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.
~ Albert Einstein

Penny Wise

The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn’t know enough to take a vacation.
~ Clarence Day


Welcome back! We trust that your mini-vacation was filled with some sunshine, family, fireworks, and/or fun. We are back into the groove here, and we’re moving directly into another quote from one of your prolific keyboards:

It would be really nice, when looking at a specific student under Student, if we could just click an arrow to go to the next student on the list. Right now, we have to click on Student (or the back button) and pick the next student in the list.

“Hmmm,” we think, “… this certainly makes some sense. Why might the teachers appreciate this?”

The reasoning behind this is when I want to see how students are working, I can just click from student to student with one click of the mouse and check to make sure students are working in order and not skipping around. (I can also) check on overall completions, etc. (It’s) just a suggestion. :-)

“Well, now we know the use case, don’t we? It just makes life a little more efficient than it was before. It’s just like one more coin added to the time-saving piggy bank!” How much time will you save here? We don’t know. Will it make much of a difference? Again we don’t know. Who does? Let’s see what the developers have done …

The STUDENTS button/link opens your student roster (jqstudents.cgi), listing student names, usernames, school, last signed in date, and last submission date. Sort and filter the list, however you like. Select any one student and view the grade report. Now look to the bottom corners of your Educator window. Do you see what’s there in the bottom corners?


The PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons will call and present the corresponding student in your list. No longer will you need to click BACK or STUDENTS to return to your roster. Will this enhancement be appreciated? We depend on you to tell us.

Two other additions were programmed this week. The first will help you FIND STUDENTS. There were several requests to search by weeks active.


Add any number or hyphenated range, and Educator will present you with a list of available students matching that criteria. And in case you might have forgotten … you can select any/all of those sorted results and perform an instructional action of your choosing:


Finally this week, there has been some recent confusion regarding whether or not a student accidentally or intentionally had RESET an assignment. You know how there are often multiple versions of the same story. From now on … students will always see this warning to CONFIRM a scheduled reset whether intended or not:


It’s our hope that this confirmation dialogue will help eliminate any accidental resetting of assignments.  Maybe this will save you the time it takes just to deal with these mistakes? Maybe it will save some time on the help desk? Maybe it’s just another minute in your day, just another penny in your bank. That ends this week’s sharing from here. You know where to share your thoughts with us.


A penny saved is a penny earned.
~ Benjamin Franklin

Part Two: Folders

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
~Albert Einstein

The Ucompass developers likewise keep things moving along. This week brought a major overhaul to some look and feel as well as some retooling behind the scenes. Basically, the developers executed a major folder renovation. Take a look at the front-end changes to the Common Folders:


These will now load much faster than ever.  The new default is to show only the first level.  There is a button to SHOW ALL FOLDERS as before, but we know the new speed here will make you smile.

Take a look at your Course Folder. Same new, clean look:


They even dressed up the Student Folders:

There was a major overhaul of many of the Educator pages that you will see. Many links were condensed and changed to reflect the new Educator style:


SEARCH functions were added in places that made sense along with the ability to SHOW ALL FODERS with a click:


There is a lot more than cosmetics and a new coat of paint here. The Educator code in this section has been condensed for greater efficiency and speed. Be sure to share your experience with us as well as others.

Albert Einstein riding his bicycle in Santa Barbara, 1933

Albert Einstein riding his bicycle in Santa Barbara, 1933

Part Two? Where is Part One?

Part One: Voices

If you’ve lost focus, just sit down and be still.
Take the idea and rock it to and fro.
Keep some of it and throw some away, and it will renew itself.
You need do no more.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

A teacher recently wrote:

Hello I am a French teacher for FLVS. Just completed a semester and we lose a LOT, LOT OF TIME in preparing an end of segment report before we can issue the grade. I strongly think Educator should generate it at the click of a button. We take an average of 5 min to generate for one student. Imagine when you have 200 students!

Our CEO, Mr. Edward Mansouri replied:

I completely understand what you are saying.
I am copying this to 2 of my top technicians and practitioners and asking they make this issue a top priority.
Our job is to make your lives as teachers less tedious so you have more time and energy to better educate your students.

Two technicians did some research (with your help on Facebook) and compiled this list of courses with voice activities:

3860   – Chinese 1 V12
2564   – Chinese II V8
2985   – Chinese III V9
3802   – French I V13
3795   – French II V13
3863   – M/J Spanish Beginning V12
3794   – Spanish for Spanish Speakers 1 V12
2977   – Spanish I V9
3864   – Spanish II V13
3408   – Spanish III V1

Our development team put together an idea in all those course shells listed above. Students must pass A COUNT of voice activities. In other words, if there are 10 activities the student must pass six. Scores are not relevant here. In these shells grades will appear as follows:


We hope this helps. Please let us know. Your life with numbers and voices should prove simpler.

Two Roads

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.
~ Ernest Hemingway

First … there was this message:

Just curious if there is a shortcut to upload a file to a student’s folder through feedback. I have kids email my FLVS address (not Educator) all the time, and I have to go through the folders, then upload, and then go to feedback. I guess I could grade through the folders, but I was just wondering.

Then … after that first one along came another:

You know what would be great? It would be great if we could upload a file to a student folder while in their gradebook, instead of having to find ‘student folders’.

And then … when we wondered about a use case:

For those live lessons they can’t save, etc. They submit the form showing they’ve submitted the work; we upload the file from there when grading.

You know the drill. First we listen. Next we try to understand. Then we take action!



We found more than one way to get this job done. You wanted express paths to a student’s folder. How about two?


From the individual student grade report or from the student roster, you will now be able to reach the student’s folder in just one click! (We finally found a great secondary use for the student username!) Click on that name in either of these screens, and you will be at the root of the student’s folder:


Try it. This should be a lot easier on your end. It should also help lighten your navigation load. Please let us know how it works.


There was another email request to empower you to search for students by date. The use case goal was to find any/all students who might be in their first week or month of class in order to readily email them or possibly force them to a certain screen. Here we go! Navigate to STUDENTS > FIND STUDENTS:


Click on the ENROLLED SINCE box to reveal the calendar. Pick your date and choose SEARCH. Once complete … you can email, group, or force any/all students found. We hope this helps.

Keep those comments and ideas rolling. We still want them. Visit our Facebook page and join in the conversations or start your own. Your ideas and suggestions do indeed make a difference. You make us “jump to the skies.” Thanks in advance.

There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind, and you jump to the skies.
~ Robert Frost

Small Talk

Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.
~ Demosthenes

You originally planted all enhancements that were harvested this week. There are three small changes that could make a big difference. Please let us know. You see things that we do not. We count on you to share. You count on us to act.

Snippet Names

Student names come over to Educator from VSA in a wide variety of formats. Teachers don’t want their snippets to look like automatic fillers. A student’s name in Educator might be TYLER DURDEN or TyLeR DuRdEn in Educator. If you take advantage of using variables, it appeared too much like an auto responder. Effective immediately in snippet variables, the student’s name will be inserted with the first letter in uppercase and all remaining letters lowercase. TyLeR DuRdEn will become Tyler Durden.  PLEASE NOTE: A name like Ronald McDonald will be inserted as Ronald Mcdonald. While this is incorrect, it is consistent with other areas of Educator.

New Number

Some of us love numbers; some of us prefer to avoid them whenever possible. The same applies to your students, right? There has been more than one request to show the number of assignments remaining for a student. The developers have therefore reduced the amount of mental math required when reviewing the grade report. The number of remaining assessments to complete will appear on the grade report page for teachers …


and for students as well.


Warning: Honors!

When a non-honors student enters an honors assessment they will receive a warning:


The warning will be formatted in the student’s browser. This will be similar to the segment warning already received.

Let us know what other ideas you have. We already have an exciting list on the developers’ workbench, but we can always use more. It’s up to you!

from New York City Transit Authority poster

from New York City Transit Authority poster